Legislative Newsletter Update 26 January 2009 



Legislative News is AUSA Government Affairs Directorate's 
weekly electronic newsletter, and is published 
every Monday when Congress is in session. 


In this issue:

AUSA President to Congress: Fully Fund Military and Veteran Healthcare

An item in the 12 January Legislative Newsletter discussed a report published by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) which explored budget reduction options.  Included in the report were several options that would negatively impact military and veterans’ healthcare. 

Specifically, the options would:

--Authorize a $500 annual health care allowance for active duty families but charge them 10 percent of the cost of care and impose a fee for them to use military health facilities.

--Change TRICARE for Life so it would not cover the first $525 of Medicare-eligible military beneficiaries’ annual cost-share and cover only half of the next $4,725.  This option also would impose charges for those who use military hospitals and clinics.

--Raise TRICARE fees for military retirees under age 65 to more than double the current rates.

--End VA health care eligibility for veterans in categories 7 and 8 (nondisabled vets above certain income levels).

Although AUSA is well aware that the CBO releases these reports every two years regardless of administration and they are not legislative proposals or new administration goals, we felt it was important that we let key members of Congress know how we feel about these options.

AUSA President Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, USA, Ret., sent letters to House and Senate leadership urging them not to entertain these unacceptable options as budget-cutting measures. 

His letter states, “Congress has provided military retirement and veterans health care benefits that exceed civilian benefits as an essential offset for the unique demands, harsh conditions, and sacrifices inherent in military service, which far surpass the demands made on civilian workers.”

“With the nation at war, the Congress must ensure that the military and veterans medical systems are properly resourced.  Now is not the time to shift costs to retirees or impose cost penalties on the military and veterans communities who through service and sacrifice have already paid enormous premiums.  To break the promise of affordable health care would have immediate readiness and recruiting implications.”

We urge you to add your voice to ours.  Visit the AUSA website, www.ausa.org., click on Contact Congress, enter your zip code and then click on the AUSA-proposed letter titled, “Preserve Military and Veterans’ Healthcare Benefits.”  Your voice does make a difference.

Also, to see Gen. Sullivan's thoughts on this subject and view the letter to Congress in its entirety, go to the AUSA website and click on Gen. Sullivan’s monthly message “from the president.”

$6 Billion for Military Construction in Economic Stimulus Package

Gen. Sullivan also weighed in on the inclusion of $6 billion for military construction and $1 billion for Veterans’ Affairs (VA) facilities in the economic stimulus plan.

A letter to the leadership of the House Appropriations Committee and the Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs offered  AUSA's endorsement of the funding and how we believe it will strengthen the economy.

The letter stated, “Stabilizing and strengthening the American economy while improving the living conditions and health care facilities of military personnel and veterans is vital to all Americans.  While all of the items included in the defense and veterans’ portion of the legislation are important and welcomed, AUSA is particularly gratified that additional funding is planned for military hospitals.  The current aging infrastructure does a disservice to the military personnel and their families who give so much to this country and deserve world-class medical facilities in which to treat their wounds and keep them healthy and ready to defend our nation.”

“Further, providing additional money for troop housing, child care, Reserve Component support and BRAC as well as veterans’ medical facilities and cemeteries address long-time AUSA goals.”

Gen. Sullivan also expressed his support for Sustainment, Restoration and Modernization (SRM), another Army requirement that would generate jobs.  SRM finances worldwide operations, activities, and initiatives necessary to maintain and sustain the Army’s facilities. 

The economic stimulus plan is currently working its way through Congress.  They hope to have it on the President’s desk for signature by mid-February.

New Legislation Update:  The 111th Congress is off and running. 

Several bills supported by AUSA have already been introduced such as H.R. 303 that would permit retired members of the Armed Forces with at least 20 years of service and who have a service-connected disability to receive both disability compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs for their disability and either retired pay by reason of their years of military service or Combat-Related Special Compensation and would eliminate the phase-in period under current law with respect to such concurrent receipt.  H.R. 303 was introduced by Florida Republican Gus Bilirakis. (To send a letter to Congress on this bill, go to /, click on Contact Congress and then "Concurrent Receipt.")

A bill that addresses full concurrent receipt for all retirees with service-connected disabilities including those medically retired with less than 20 years of service was introduced by Rep. Jim Marshall (D-Ga.)

Rep. Joe Wilson, (R-S.C.) introduced the National Guardsmen and Reservists Parity for Patriots Act (H.R. 208) which amends the National Defense Authorization Act of 2008 to repair the gap in eligibility for National Guard and Reserve members to receive credit towards early retirement by including any active duty service since September 11th, 2001.  Current eligibility only applies to service following the enactment of the 2008 NDAA. 

Changes to Social Security law passed in 1977 and 1983 have had a negative impact on the Social Security benefits of many federal civilian retirees.  The unintended consequences were significant reductions to the social security and survivor benefits of federal retirees.  These harsh rules affect approximately 335,000 beneficiaries and that number grows by about 15,000 annually.  Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) introduced H.R. 235, which would repeal the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision. (To send a letter to Congress on this bill, go to /, click on Contact Congress, then "Eliminate the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.")

Look for updates to these important bills and a spotlight on new legislation to be a regular feature in upcoming newsletters.